Financial freedom means something different to everyone. It depends on what you need to feel free, and that will depend on your own goals, aspirations, and personal tastes. Whatever financial freedom means to you (and it’s a good idea to define it for yourself), here are a few things to focus on as you pursue it.
This doesn’t refer to formal education, which can of course be an easy way to go into a lot of debt. Educating yourself about personal finance, however, is the first step to financial freedom. You can’t control what you don’t understand, so make sure you understand your finances. There’s an abundance of blogs, podcasts, and online courses that can help you self-educate.
Positivity alone won’t ensure financial freedom, but wallowing in negative news, and surrounding yourself with negative people, is really unhelpful. Negativity can kill productivity, confidence, and motivation, all of which are necessary to take control of your financial situation. Positive people take action, work hard, and look for ways to capitalize on situations, even though there may be obstacles in their path.
Many people are extremely reactive when it comes to finances. They ask for a raise when they can no longer manage on their current salary, look for a new job when they lose the old one, start a side hustle when they realise they can’t pay the bills that are already pending. They take the credit card that arrives ‘pre-approved’ in their lap, rather than researching which one is best for them, and buy what they need without ever doing a price comparison. Thinking proactively about finances and planning for the future are vital elements of creating financial freedom.
Perhaps the simplest part of managing your finances is to actually make a budget, but many people don’t, and many more never stick to it (which may mean it wasn’t realistic in the first place). Learning to make a realistic budget that allows you to cover expenses, pay off debt, and save for the future is vital.
Setting goals for your financial life is as important as setting them around other things like fitness or education. And as with other goals they can’t be too vague. Vague goals like ‘spend less’ or ‘save more’ rarely work out. You need some actual numbers in there, and an end-date too. Here are a few financial goals you might want to aim for in the next six months.
When it comes to money, mindset is arguably one of the most important things to address. Perhaps a consumer mindset keeps you spending, or a scarcity mindset keeps you from taking risks. Either way, fixing your money mindset is an essential prerequisite if you’re aiming for financial freedom.
It’s easy to blame others for your lack of financial freedom. Your boss doesn’t pay you enough. Things are too expensive. Interest payments are too high. These may all be true, but this is where you need to use that proactive thinking that we mentioned earlier. Maybe it’s time to negotiate a raise or apply for a new job. Maybe it’s time to assess the things you’re spending money on. Maybe you need to renegotiate or consolidate loans to access lower interest rates. No one will fix your finances but you.
Getting creative with how you make and save money is often underestimated. Think outside the box about how you could make more money or spend less. Maybe you need to start a side hustle, sell something, use your property more creatively, have a no-spend month, or something else. Have a creative brainstorming session, focusing on both how you can make more money, and spend less.
Lots of people genuinely don’t know where their money goes. One great way to monitor spending is by creating a financial journal. This allows you to keep track of spending, and also encourages you to think about why you spend money on certain things and whether you really need to. What are the benefits? Why do those benefits matter? Financial journaling alone can help you assess your spending habits and move towards financial freedom.
Dealing With Debt
I’ve saved this until last but it’s potentially the most important on the list. A lack of money is, in many ways, less of a problem than an abundance of debt, at least when it comes to freedom. A low income, debt-free, individual often has more choice in terms of things like geographic location and lifestyle, than someone who’s weighed down with debt.
I see this a lot in the digital nomad community. You’ll meet plenty of people just getting by financially, but living a wonderful lifestyle, in countries where their modest income goes a long way. Friends ‘back home’ envy them, but could never make the switch because of monthly repayments in their home country that need to be met, whether they’re living there or not. If being location independent is important to you, then you might want to make paying down debt a top priority.
Paying attention to these things won’t deliver financial freedom overnight, but it will help you slowly work towards it.
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Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to encourage any lifestyle changes without careful consideration and consultation with a qualified professional. This article is for reference purposes only, is generic in nature, is not intended as individual advice and is not financial or legal advice.